Spielwarenmesse: Interview with Bastei Lübbe: E-book market for young target groups on the rise

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Interview with Bastei Lübbe: E-book market for young target groups on the rise

from Ulrich Texter

The market for children's and young adults' books still has great potential – if one can believe the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Jugendbuchverlage e.V. ("Working Group for Young Readers’ Book Publishers"). The association of more than 90 publishers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland bases its optimism on the study on children's and young adults' books published in October 2013 entitled "Market development, consumer behaviour, consumer structures and attitudes". Bastei Lübbe also intends benefiting from this growth market, as the publishing company announced at the beginning of this year. We spoke to Mathias Siebel, new overall head of books for children and young adults.

Spielwarenmesse®: Mr Siebel, with your nose for topics and trends, you are expected to push forward the ranges of the Boje and Baumhaus publishing firms. What does your nose sense with regard to current trends?

Mathias Siebel: It's often the case that a huge bestseller starts a trend. The "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series started a trend for graphic novels at our firm, "The Hunger Games" the trend of dystopias at Oetinger, the "Twilight" series the vampire trend at Carlsen. I guess the new trend will be an old one. We're facing a reunion with magicians and sorcerers' apprentices.

Photo: Siebel © tomas rodriguez fotografie

Although the number of buyers is increasing, according to the 2014 trend report on children's and young adults' books, sales are falling. So we can't talk about a growth market, especially since the birth rate also gives us no reason to be optimistic. Why are you optimistic that there's still room for improvement?

M.S.: We've discovered the area of young adult entertainment as a potential growth market for us and, together with ONE, have set up our own label for this area. Books for young adults, for all ages, bridgers – the segment has many names. The ultimate aim is to open up the young adult book market for those aged 12 and older to young adults and adults that are still young at heart. You can see bookshops clearing some of their own tables to make them ready for this segment. And we want to occupy those tables in the future.

E-book sales account for only one per cent of buyers in the children's and young adults' book market, while the sales of e-books across the entire book market is just under 4 % – and rising. Will e-books in the children's and young adults' book sector remain a marginal phenomenon or where do you see the potential in the medium and long term, because Bastei Lübbe is, after all, claiming to be a bit of a pioneer here?

M.S.: We firmly believe that in the area of children's and young adults' books the revenue share of e-books is slowly but steadily growing. But a few important issues still have to be clarified: From what age onwards do children have access to digital readers? What payment options for e-books are available for children and young adults who have no credit cards?

At this year's Leipzig Book Fair we learnt that, among the buyers of children's and young adults' books, the proportion of boys and men is continuing to rise. Has the stronger sex has become more feminine, because they're now discovering books, or have the publishers adjusted their ranges to attract specific target groups?

M.S.: The "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series has certainly helped to (re)discover the target group of boys. The "Wimpy Kid" is commonly referred to as THE series that has brought the so-called "reluctant readers" (mostly boys) back to books. The success of "The Wimpy Kid" brought with it some imitators, so there's now a greater variety of books that also appeal to boys.

Stiftung Lesen, a reading foundation, pointed out possible ways to increase boys' motivation to read. There's a lot of talk of role models, awareness and motivation, but hardly any of content that could rivet boys. But doesn't the success of your Wimpy Kid books show that content in particular is what decides whether boys pick up a book or not?

M.S.: I believe the purpose of our publishing company is to create content that the children will first and foremost enjoy; the rest will come then by itself.

Leafing through the autumn preview of publishers Baumhaus & Boje, the page "Only for Boys" immediately caught our eye. Do you want to do away with the "structural disadvantage" of boys?

M.S.: The female readership predominates in children's and young adults' literature even more than in the adult area and as a result the books on offer are aligned to that fact. But it can be quite interesting to get involved in a smaller market segment where competition isn't so fierce.

In early June it was said that a new self-awareness was shaping the German book market. Does your publishing company also have this self-awareness, when, as the German Publishers and Booksellers Association writes, going "against the destructive raids of quasi-monopolists"

M.S.: We try to meet all our partners as equals. That's why a healthy self-awareness is, indeed, necessary in some cases.

What you are reading right now and what you can recommend to retailers who champion books for children and young adults?

M.S.: I've just come back from holiday. I let myself read books by other publishers then. I really enjoyed "Wildwood" by Colin Meloy. I can also wholeheartedly recommend "Petronella Apfelmus – verhext und festgeklebt", a book about a witch from our Boje range of books.

 

Author of this article:

Ulrich Texter

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